United We Stand

In this lesson, students will read a short biography of César Chávez—one of our nation’s greatest labor leaders. They will examine how much of the success attributed to Chávez was the result of the efforts of thousands of other people helping and supporting him. Students will learn about labor unions and reflect on how powerful it can be to speak up with others for change.
Grade Level


At the end of the lesson, students will be able to: 

  • outline a short biography of César Chávez through the use of a graphic organizer.  
  • describe how Chávez worked with others to struggle for the common good.  
  • identify problems and solutions in their own community and explore how it can be more powerful to speak out as a group when working to solve those problems.
Essential Questions
  • How might working with a large group rather than as an individual help to change unfair practices?  
  • Why might it be important for workers to be treated fairly, given a fair wage, and kept safe on the job?




  • environmentalist (en-vahy-ruh n-men-tl-ist (noun) someone who works to protect the air, water, animals, plants, and other natural resources from pollution  
  • migrant farm workers (my-gruh nt) (noun) farm workers who move from place to place to get work, especially those who harvests crops seasonally 
  • prejudice (prej-uh-dis) (noun) an unfavorable opinion about an ethnic, racial, or religious group formed without knowledge or reason 
  • union (yoon-yuh n) (noun)  a number of persons, states, etc., joined or associated together for some common purpose 
  • United Farm Workers (noun) a group founded by César Chávez in 1962, organizing agricultural workers, many of whom were Mexican-Americans, also referred to as UFW, a labor union for farm workers in the United States


Suggested Procedure

1.  Challenge students to think of a time when they encountered a problem or a challenge that they tried to solve. Ask: “Would it have been helpful if others (kids or adults) had shown their support to solve the problem?” Give students time to do a quick free-write about their experiences.  

2.  As a class or as homework, have students read this biographical sketch of César E. Chávez  

3.  Provide students with copies of a problem-solution graphic organizer to support reading comprehension. Ask: What were the problems Chávez was trying to solve? How did he and others try to address that problem? What were the solutions? How did things turn out? 

4.  Then discuss the following questions with students:  

  • What is a farm worker? How would you describe the kind of work a farm worker does?  
  • What unfair or unkind things were happening to the farm workers? Why were those things unfair or unkind? 
  • What changes did César Chávez and the farm workers seek?  
  • How did forming a union help the farm workers speak out? 
  • What actions did Chávez and the farm workers take to help make change possible? 
  • Who supported Chávez and the farm workers? Why was their support important? 
  • Would Chávez have been successful without the farm workers' support?  
  • Would he have been successful without other people's support? Why or why not? 
  • What changes occurred as a result of the farm workers’ collective efforts?

Common Core State Standards: ELA-Literacy. CCRA. R.1; R.2; R.3; R.4; W.1; W.2; W.3; W.4; Sl.1; SL.2; SL.4. 

Extension Activity

Ask students to review their free-writes from the beginning of the lesson. Ask for volunteers to share experiences that relate to issues or problems that happened at school. Create a class contract with students committing to work together as a group like the farm workers and their allies to make change happen in your school.